Constitution land

The virtual amusement park for people who love the US CONSTITUTION!

Preamble Street

 Welcome  to your gateway to Constitutionland, themed around the most famous  preamble.  As you enter, look up, the MAIN ENTRANCE is the world's  largest copy of the US Constitution.  Just past the entrance is  Constitutionland's Preamble Square, our town square, where most of our  presentations and speeches are held.  Have you taken a picture with Mr.  Textualism or James Madison, yet? Don't worry, you will see them and  many of our other characters throughout the day.   It's sort of our  front parlor too, note the numerous benches and shady seating areas  which allow our guests to rest their feet, have a cool drink and debate  the constitutional issues of today and yesteryear.  Look  out, Constitutionland's Great Orators and Great Dissenters love to mill  around among these restive places to strike up a good debate.  At the  center of Preamble Square, look down to see emblazoned in giant letters,  the words that kick off the US Constitution:

"We the People of the  United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish  justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defence,  promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to  ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution  for the United States of America."

To start your day, enter WE THE PEOPLE: THE AMERICAN JOURNEY  where you will experience who "we the people" has represented over the  centuries, and what it means today.  As you walk down Preamble Street,  the main thoroughfare in Constitutionland, you will come upon "A MORE  PERFECT UNION: RESEARCH CENTER"  an academic facility for our guests who  hope to enhance their research and understanding of the Constitution.   Next up, on both sides of the street are the "ESTABLISH JUSTICE GIFT  SHOP", "DOMESTIC TRANQUILITY REST AREA", and ""THE COMMON DEFENSE" and  "GENERAL WELFARE" restaurants.  Finally, welcome to "THE BLESSINGS OF  LIBERTY THEATRE" where you can see Constitution themed theatrical  productions throughout the day and into the evening.  Would you like to  learn more about the Preamble?  See below.

Remember, Preamble Street is ONLY THE have seven more lands to discover!

We the People: The American Journey

 Have  you ever wondered what the phrase "We the People" means? Who does it  include?  "We the People: the American Journey" attempts to answer that  question....

Learn about the Preamble

 Would you like to learn more about  this most famous paragraph in American history? Well, buckle your seat belts...

What is a Preamble?
"An introductory statement in a  constitution, statute, or other document explaining the document's basis  and objective; esp., a statutory recital of the inconveniences for  which the statute is designed to provide a remedy. (From Black's Law Dictionary, Eighth Edition).

Birth of the Preamble to the US Constitution
On August 6, 1787, Mr. John Rutledge, of  South Carolina, head of the Committee of Detail presented the first  complete draft of the United States Constitution.  The Committee of  Detail had been created on July  23, 1787, for the purpose of organizing the various resolutions and  ideas which had taken shape throughout the course of that summer. 

There were five members of the Committee of Detail: Mr. John Rutledge of  South Carolina, Mr. Edmund Randolph of Virginia, Mr. Nathaniel Gorham  of Massachusetts, Mr. Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut and Mr. James  Wilson of Pennsylvania.  (See Madison's  Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention for July 23, 1787 at

On July 26, the Federal Convention "unanimously Adjourned till Monday,  August 6 that the Come. [Committee] of detail might have  time to  prepare & report the Constitution."  (See "Madison's Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention" for July 26, 1787 at

In this first complete draft of the new Constitution, the preamble appeared as follows:

"We  the people of the States of New Hampshire, Massachussetts, Rhode-Island  and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey,  Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina,  South-Carolina, and Georgia, do ordain, declare, and establish the  following Constitution for the Government of Ourselves and our  Posterity."  (See "Madison's Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention" for August 6, 1787 at

James Wilson is credited as the author of this first, mundane version of the Preamble.  (From David O. Stewart, The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution p.169)

Compare the Preamble to the Articles of Confederation

The  Articles of Confederation, drafted in 1777, and ratified as the form of  government of the United States of America since March 1, 1781, began  with a preamble similar in style:

"To  all to whom these Presents shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of  the States affixed to our Names send greeting.  Articles of  Confederation and perpetual Union between the states of New Hampshire,  Massachusetts-bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut,  New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North  Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia."   
Customarily, a preamble lists the law's objectives, which is not the  case in the preamble to the Articles of Confederation or the first draft  of the preamble to the US Constitution.  That, of course, is not the  end of the story.

The Preamble Evolves: The Committe of Style and Arrangement
On  September 8, 1787, with the convention quickly drawing to a close, a  "Committee was then appointed by Ballot to revise the stile of and  arrange the articles which had been agreed to by the House."  The  members of the committee were William Samuel Johnson, Alexander  Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, James Madison and Rufus King. These five  men were known as the Committee of Style and Arrangement and it was  their job to organize the layout of the numerous resolutions that had  already taken shape and formed the new Constitution.  (See "Madison's Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention" for September 8, 1787 at

Although it was a five man committee, the chairman,  William Johnson, asked Gouveneur Morris to write the final draft.   Remember, the committee meetings were not documented as the convention  was, but both Morris and Madison confirmed the latter's authorship.  (From David O. Stewart, The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution p.232).

Origins of "We the People"
The phrase "We  the People"  has taken on a mystical quality in political history. The very concept  of "the People" as the authors of this new Constitution created, in  history, an element of revolution, especially considering the era in  which these words were written, when most other governments in the world  were ruled by, at best, constitutional monarchies, and at worst  tyrannies.  The birth of this phrase is not quite as miraculous as one  would expect, however.

When Morris sat at his desk in Mrs. Baily's rooming house on Market  Street, where he resided during the Constitutional Convention, to polish  up the Constitution, he was unsure whether all of the states would  ratify it.  With Rhode Island never in attendance at the Convention and  the delegates from New York (besides Hamilton) having gone home, the  original preamble cataloging all of the states as the authors of the  Constitution, would be inaccurate and presumptuous.  So, "We  the People " was born of very practical parents.

Although the extraordinary words "We the People" had a very ordinary and  utilitarian birth, their power cannot be discounted.  To quote  Catherine Drinker Bowen: "Nor did members of the committee foresee that  in Europe the phrase would serve as an inspiration, a flag of defiance  against absolutist kings."  (From Catherine Drinker Bowen, Miracle at Philadelphia, p. 240.) 

As for the rest of the Preamble, it did not take long for Morris to  complete the entire first draft of the Constitution, so he could not  dwell too much on the balance of the words.  Bowen concludes, the "seven  verbs...form, establish, insure, provide, promote, secure,  ordain...set[ ] down a working instrument of government which must be  plain, brief and strategically vague in places to give play for future  circumstances."  (From Catherine Drinker Bowen, Miracle at Philadelphia, p. 241.)  In sum, Morris's preamble "distills the purposes of government." (From David O. Stewart, The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution p.234).

The Preamble in the Supreme Court

What does the Supreme Court think about the Preamble?


Chief Justice John Marshall, in McCulloch v. Maryland  17 US 316 (1819) quoted from the preamble. The issue in the case was  whether the State of Maryland could tax the Bank of the US, which was a  federal entity.  Maryland argued the Constitution was not  "emanating  from the people, but as the act of sovereign and independent States."   To dismiss this argument, Marshall pointed to the ratification process  itself.  The numerous state conventions that were called, in Marshall's  mind, are the original source of the federal government's power under  the US Constitution:

"From these conventions, the Constitution derives its whole authority.   The government  proceeds directly from the people; is "ordained and  established" in the name of the people, and is declared to be ordained  'in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure  domestic tranquility, and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves  and to their posterity' " (McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 US 403-404).

Just like Marshall, Justice Joseph Story, in Martin v. Hunter's Lessese 14 US 304 (1816) looked to the preamble to establish the source of power in the Constitution:

"The constitution of the United States was ordained and established, not  by the states in their sovereign capacities but emphatically, as the  preamble of the constitution declares, by "the people of the United  States. There can be no doubt that it was competent to the people to  invest the general government with all the powers which they might deem  proper and necessary."  (Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, 14 US 324-325).